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NATION ROUNDUP: Burgeoning numbers of Cubans trying to enter US via Mexico

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — Burgeoning numbers of Cubans are trying to get into the U.S. by way of the Mexican border, creating a big backlog of people waiting on the Mexican side for months for their chance to apply for asylum.

The surge over the past several months has been propelled in part by loosened travel restrictions in Central America and deteriorating living conditions in Cuba.

As a result, about 4,500 asylum seekers, the vast majority of them Cuban, have descended on Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas — an influx that has raised tensions with some locals.

For decades during the Cold War and beyond, Cubans tried to reach the U.S. by air, land and sea, many of them crossing the 90 miles to Florida in dangerously rickety boats and rafts.

In January 2017, though, the U.S. ended its “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy of almost automatically admitting any Cuban who managed to reach American soil. For many Cubans, their best option is going to the U.S.-Mexican border and claiming asylum.

For many years, Cubans entering through the southern border generally flew to South America and tried to come into the U.S. at Laredo, Texas. But now many are using a relatively new and shorter route: They fly to Panama or Nicaragua, pay smugglers to help them reach the U.S. border, and seek to come across at El Paso.

 

Felicity Huffman pleads guilty in college admissions scheme

BOSTON — “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman pleaded guilty Monday in the college admissions bribery scheme, the biggest name to do so in a scandal that has exposed the lengths to which some wealthy parents will go to get their children into top universities.

The Emmy-winning actress, 56, could face prison time after she admitted to participating in the nationwide scam, in which authorities say parents bribed coaches, rigged entrance exams or both to game the admissions system.

Huffman pleaded guilty in federal court to paying an admissions consultant $15,000 to have a proctor correct her older daughter’s answers on the SAT. She also considered going through with the plan for her younger daughter before ultimately deciding not to, authorities say.

The consultant, Rick Singer, arranged for the cheating by having students obtain permission for extra time on the exams through diagnoses for things like learning disabilities, and then taking the exams at his testing center, prosecutors say.

 

Victims of clergy abuse sue Vatican, seek names of abusers

MINNEAPOLIS — Five victims of sex abuse by Catholic priests plan to sue the Vatican and are demanding to know the names of thousands of predator priests they say have been kept secret.

Attorney Jeff Anderson plans to file his lawsuit on Tuesday.

The plaintiffs include three brothers who were abused by former priest Curtis Wehmeyer as recently as 2012 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Wehmeyer pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct and child pornography in connection with his contact with two of the boys, who were 12 and 14.

The brothers plan to speak about the case at a Tuesday news conference.

Wehmeyer’s arrest led prosecutors to charge the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for failing to protect children. It also led to the forced resignation of then-Archbishop John Nienstedt.

 

Escalating US-China trade war sends stocks plunging

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged more than 500 points Monday as investors sought shelter from an escalating trade war between the U.S. and China.

The Dow and S&P 500 index each fell more than 2% as investors sold trade-sensitive shares in a broad sell-off that extended the market’s slide into a second week.

Technology stocks led the way lower, with digital storage companies and chipmakers among the big decliners. Heavy equipment makers Deere and Caterpillar drove losses in the industrial sector.

The world’s largest economies had seemed on track to resolve the ongoing trade dispute that has raised prices for consumers and pinched corporate profit margins. Investor confidence that the two sides were close to a resolution had helped push the market to its best yearly start in decades.

Those hopes are now being dashed and replaced by concerns that the trade war could crimp what is otherwise a mostly healthy economy. Analysts have warned that failed trade talks and the deterioration in relations will put a dent in the U.S. and China’s economic prospects.